Categorized | Government, News

Updates from Gabbard (May 20-28)

MEDIA RELEASE

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has voted in the House Foreign Affairs Committee to advance legislation mandating sanctions against those who assist or indirectly support illicit activities in North Korea.

The North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act of 2014 (H.R. 1771) requires the President to impose targeted sanctions on people or entities in other countries that contribute directly or indirectly to weapons development, arms trafficking, money laundering, and human rights abuses in North Korea.

“The time for strategic patience is over. When I traveled to the region last month, I heard firsthand concerns from our partners in Northeast Asia that North Korea continues to endanger regional peace and security, as well as economic growth,” said Gabbard, who spoke in support of the legislation in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

“North Korea’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles pose a direct and concrete threat to Americans; to people who live in my state of Hawaii, who sit within range of North Korea’s missiles,” she said. “By putting in robust sanctions against third parties who – directly or through willful negligence – support North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, we can better protect our people and military assets in Hawaii and American territories in the Pacific.”

H.R. 1771 also directs the U.S. Treasury Department to restrict access to the U.S. financial system for North Korean banks and third party enablers. Sanctions can be waived for humanitarian aid and when a waiver supports U.S. national interests.

Gabbard has long advocated for the protection of Hawaii and American territories in the Pacific from the growing threat posed by North Korea, and is a strong advocate for U.S. investment in missile defense.

Gabbard Calls for Systemic Reform at the VA

Gabbard released the following statement on the allegations of misconduct within the Veterans Affairs (VA) health system, and the systemic problems at the VA that prevent timely delivery of quality care and earned benefits to our nation’s veterans.

“The bottom line is our veterans are not getting the service they deserve, whether it be inordinate wait-times for doctor’s appointments, issues with medical records, or long delays in claims being resolved, change is long overdue,” Gabbard said. “This is an urgent issue that began long before allegations of serious misconduct surfaced in Phoenix. The VA has failed to proactively address the systemic problems our veterans face when they try to access basic care. We have a responsibility to take meaningful action that will bring about the change our veterans deserve.

“We need to do two things sequentially in order to get to the root of the problem: (1) conduct a full investigation and get to the bottom of the allegations in Phoenix so we can understand the scope of the problem there, and across the VA system, and hold people accountable; (2) with the facts, determine who is the best person to lead this charge. It is a tough task that will require a dynamic, courageous leader who is focused on creating a modern VA, centered around providing the best possible service to our veterans.

“It’s critical now that we focus on meaningful change, and not take action just for show. I am not interested in making symbolic gestures that may serve to calm criticism, but which do not actually help veterans who are suffering and dying on our watch.”

The congresswoman’s Hawaii office offers a range of services for constituents, including help with federal agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“No veteran should have to struggle through bureaucracy and red tape just to access the benefits they earned in service to our nation. My team has the resources and contacts to help Hawaii veterans, and I encourage those who are facing obstacles to reach out to my Hawaii team, which I’m proud to say includes veterans from all four main branches of the military,” Gabbard added.

Constituents who are seeking assistance because they feel they have been treated unfairly by a federal agency, or they have not received a timely response from an agency, may request assistance from Gabbard’s virtual office by calling (808) 541-1986 or visiting: forms.house.gov/formsgabbard/w…

Gabbard: Gutted USA FREEDOM Act Fails to Uphold Civil Liberties

Gabbard voted against a fundamentally altered version of the USA FREEDOM Act, which was drastically changed in a deal struck behind closed doors.

The original bill, which Gabbard co-sponsored, ended all bulk collection of personal data and only allowed the government to request personal data using “specific” terms.

The legislation allows the government to continue to obtain bulk personal data without having to target individuals specifically.

“The USA FREEDOM Act I voted against today is a far cry from the legislation I co-sponsored, and does not rein in the bulk collection of our personal information – in fact, it does the opposite, ” said Gabbard. “While proponents claim the bill does end some bulk collection, the fact is that it still allows the government to obtain innocent Americans’ personal data, to include phone and email data. Instead of targeting specific individuals, the bill would allow the government to collect data with very broad search terms like an entire area code, an email with a key word, or a whole state or region of the country. That kind of data collection is not ‘specific’ at all; it is the opposite of specific, leaving the door open for continued overreach and abuse. Ultimately, our objective is to keep our country and people safe. This is not a choice between civil liberties and national security. We still have yet to hear of a single example of how national security has been strengthened by allowing bulk data collection.

“We have a responsibility to do better as we strike the balance between national security and upholding the values that make our country strong.”

Gabbard has long advocated to end the overreach of the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of innocent Americans’ personal data.

Gabbard: Blocked Vote on Military Justice Reform Disservice to Survivors

Gabbard called for action on the House floor after the House Committee on Rules blocked a vote on a bipartisan deal to protect survivors of military sexual assault.

In the committee, the congresswoman testified in support of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 that would remove commanders from the decision-making process to prosecute a sexual assault, and place the authority in the hands of trained military prosecutors.

“I stand here disappointed and heartbroken today as an American and as a soldier because Congress has missed an opportunity to stand up and fight for our troops, especially those who have been victims and survivors of violent sexual crimes that have occurred within our ranks,” said Gabbard, a twice-deployed Army combat veteran. “The House this week had a chance to finally take action on a bipartisan effort to remove the chain of command from the decision-making process to prosecute a violent sexual assault, but this legislation was blocked from even getting and up or down vote on the House floor. This fight for justice is far from over because we will keep pushing for meaningful change that best serves our men and women in uniform, ensuring them justice and honoring their selfless service to our country.”

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard meets with Military DREAMers Jennifer, Maria, and Miriam in her Washington, DC office. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Gabbard’s Office)

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard meets with Military DREAMers Jennifer, Maria, and Miriam in her Washington, DC office. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Gabbard’s Office)

Gabbard: DREAMers Deserve Opportunity to Serve Their Country in Uniform

Gabbard met with three young military DREAMers, undocumented youth who aspire to serve in the U.S. military but are banned due to their immigration status.

The congresswoman met with three young women – Maria, Miriam, and Jennifer – who were brought to the U.S. as children and have served in Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) programs.

“Maria, Miriam, and Jennifer represent young people across the country who want to serve their nation honorably, but are unable to because of our broken immigration system,” said Gabbard. “Their stories of hope, service, and commitment to the only country they’ve ever known as home, are inspiring and are part of the fabric that has made our country vibrant and strong. It is a disservice to our nation to prohibit these talented young people from raising their hand, volunteering to put their lives on the line for the home and country they love. Now is the time to pass comprehensive immigration reform that will allow people like Maria, Miriam, and Jennifer to serve in our Armed Forces, strengthening our military and expanding opportunity for a new generation of servant-leaders.”

Gabbard is a cosponsor of H.R. 15, a comprehensive reform bill, and signed a discharge petition to require a full House vote on immigration reform.

Gabbard, Stewart Introduce the Veterans TRICARE Choice Act

Gabbard and Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), both veterans, introduced the Veterans TRICARE Choice Act of 2014, H.R. 4682.

This bipartisan bill gives TRICARE-eligible veterans the ability to contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA) program.

Under current Veterans Administration policy, it is illegal for a TRICARE-eligible veteran to participate in an HSA program. The Veterans TRICARE Choice Act of 2014, gives veterans the choice to voluntarily pause their TRICARE benefits in order to participate in an HSA program.

Health Savings Accounts have proven to be an effective way to pay for medical costs and proactively save for future medical expenses. Employees invest and save tax-free money in HSAs, which are then used to pay for qualified medical expenses. These have become increasingly popular healthcare plans in the private sector.

“Veterans in the private sector deserve the same access to quality healthcare options that their civilian co-workers enjoy,” said Gabbard. “As a National Guard soldier who used TRICARE in the past, I’ve experienced firsthand the limitations that exist. TRICARE-eligible veterans who have served their country honorably are denied access to other health plans unless they permanently opt out of TRICARE. This outdated policy does not serve our veterans or their families, who have sacrificed greatly. I’m proud to join my friend and fellow veteran, Congressman Stewart, to introduce the Veterans TRICARE Choice Act to provide more freedom and flexibility for our veterans to make healthcare choices that are right for themselves and their families.”

“As a former Air Force Officer, I know first hand about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families,” Stewart said. “When they leave the military and enter the private workforce, they shouldn’t be denied opportunities given to non-veteran employees. This bill simply allows veterans to pause TRICARE benefits to participate in the same employer sponsored HSA programs that non-veteran employees are given. It’s important that we honor our veterans by ensuring that they have access to the best healthcare options for themselves and their families.”

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